Brady Versus Jordan: Who Ya Got?

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Doug Gottlieb is right – a win on Sunday won’t put Tom Brady ahead of Michael Jordan in the “greatest of all time” discussion. That’s because Brady is already ahead of him. A win on Sunday just puts Jordan further Brady’s rear view mirror.

As of today Jordan has six rings and Brady has five, but Brady’s five rings are far more impressive. Only one other person has five Super Bowl rings as a player, and that’s Charles Haley. Haley won two rings in the second half of the 49ers Montana dynasty and added three more with the Cowboys dynasty of the early 1990s. Haley is a college and pro-football hall of famer but certainly not a household name. Nine men have more NBA championship rings than Jordan. Of course Bill Russell leads that group with 11, but that group also includes Robert Horry who has seven. I don’t hear anyone bringing up his name in the G.O.A.T. discussion. With a win on Sunday Brady will have more rings than anyone else who ever played his sport, and that’s something Jordan will never be able to claim.

Brady’s detractors will point out that he went almost a decade without a championship. That’s a fair point and something I’ve pondered as well. Jordan never had a championship drought that long, but it did take him seven seasons to win his first ring. After that it was six in eight years. While Jordan dominated the 1990s, like Montana dominated the NFL in the 1980s, Brady has been a force in the NFL for two decades. Winning championships 15, and maybe 16, years apart speaks volumes about the length of Brady’s reign compared to the length of Jordan’s reign.

As I briefly touched on last week, I wonder how much of Brady’s championship drought had to do with the constant turnover of offensive and defensive coordinators in Foxboro. The Patriots First Triumvirate of Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel was together from 2001-2005 and won three championships in four years. The Patriots Second Triumvirate of Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia has been in place since 2012 and now also has a chance of winning three championships in four years.

However, I also wonder how much of Brady’s championship drought had to do with the stiff competition of his era. Brady’s record in the postseason is 27-9. Of those nine losses, three came against Peyton Manning and two came against Eli Manning. Two more came against a legendary Baltimore defense. When Brady has lost in the postseason, it has usually been to all-time great quarterback, team or coach. But, Brady has also had his fair share of playoff wins against all-time great quarterbacks and teams.

The same can’t be said about Jordan. Sure, Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals, but do we award bonus points for him never being able to get by Boston’s Big Three? Or for taking four tries to get past Detroit’s Bad Boys? Jordan also never beat a team in the finals that would later go on to win a championship.

Jordan’s first championship came against the Lakers in the final year of Magic Johnson’s career (his 1996 comeback excluded). The Lakers got swept in the finals by the Bad Boy Pistons two years earlier, and wouldn’t win a championship as a franchise again until 2000 with Shaq and Kobe. Other than that, Jordan beat the Portland Trailblazers, Phoenix Suns, Seattle SuperSonics and Utah Jazz (twice) in the NBA Finals. Those four teams have won a combined two NBA titles, both in the 1970s before Michael Jordan even enrolled at the University of North Carolina. Goliaths they were not.

In a sport such as football, with the specialization required for each position, it’s tough to say that Brady, or anyone for that matter, is the greatest football player of all time. He is without a doubt the greatest quarterback, though. In basketball it’s a little bit easier, but Jordan never had to play against Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain or LeBron James. Even if you consider Jordan the greatest basketball player, though, Brady is so much further ahead of the rest of his field that I can’t see how Brady can’t rightfully claim the title of G.O.A.T.

At least I couldn’t until I saw this tweet.

And the Babe did it the old fashioned way. With cigars and whisky.  Maybe it’s time we at least brought him back into the discussion.

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One Response to Brady Versus Jordan: Who Ya Got?

  1. Pingback: These Are the Stakes the Patriots are Playing for in Super Bowl LII | The 300s

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